RTE’s decision to exclude nine of the 17 candidates seeking election in the Midlands North West constituency from its televised debate is absolutely absurd and demonstrates the need to abolish the TV licence, EU election candidate, and former Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has said.
Dr Healy Eames said; “The public have a right, when they spend hundreds of millions on RTE annually, to see the supposed national broadcaster spend time covering issues of public interest, such as the European elections we are having at the moment. The licence fee is justified only on the basis of fair public service broadcasting, not the discriminatory practice of the exclusion of some candidates over others.
“Yet, RTE cannot be bothered to do something as basic as providing all MEP election candidates with an equal chance to present their case to the public. Instead, they have come up with self-made criteria where they are handpicking a few candidates and elevating those above the rest. They are favouring parties over Independents and excluding both candidates that represent the pro-life community, namely myself and Michael O’Dowd, despite the fact that one in every three persons voted pro-life at last year’s Referendum.
“This is an appalling practice and the public should know that RTE practises exclusion not inclusion. What a poor societal ethos and example from our public service broadcaster that at the very least should uphold the principles of free speech, diversity, and inclusion.”
Dr Healy Eames suggested rival station Virgin Media have attempted to provide a more balanced platform than RTE. She said; “[Virgin Media] have attempted to provide a more balanced platform with no taxpayer money behind them, than RTE, [who] have many times more staff and vastly greater resources. At least they did not block candidates with a pro-life ethos from being heard.
“At this stage I struggle to remember an election or referendum where RTE have not actively caused a controversy with their election debates, whether it be fake tweets or empty chairs or whatever you are having yourself. RTE need to stop interfering negatively in the electoral process. The Government should intervene and insist on this from the State broadcaster.
“The Irish people are not paying a licence fee for public service broadcasting, because that is not what they are getting. They are paying for preferential treatment and incompetence. These so-called EU debates prove it. In an election, all we, as candidates, can expect is a fair shot. We do not mind answering questions, we do not mind the cut and thrust of debate, we expect the people to make a choice at the end, and we respect that.
“What we do not expect is for RTE to attempt to decide the outcome of the election and to give subliminal messages to the public through the exclusion of some and preferential treatment for others. This already happened ten days ago with the Week in Politics and now we have it again. Their selective panel interview criteria ensure that it is impossible for any new Independent candidate voices to be heard. This is blatantly unfair and amounts to censorship of new voices.
“It is long past time to abolish the licence fee. RTE’s main domestic competitor can provide a better service than RTE does without a licence fee, so why are we paying it?”